Lacto-Fermented Salsa is our favorite way to preserve this spicy condiment — the vegetables remain fresh tasting and with tons of texture, and the garlicky juices are positively addicting (Bloody Mary, anyone?). Small batches can be made up quickly and easily by the quart and, if you’ve never tried it before, is a great introduction to fermentation. Just gather up end-of-summer tomatoes, peppers and sweet onions, and add a bit of whey to get the good bacteria going. After two days of sitting at room temperature, the jars go into the fridge for longer-term storage. Our root cellar hasn’t cooled down enough yet; if it had, they could be stored there as well. The salsa can be eaten at any time, and, like good kimchi, gets better with age.
We got our start with fermentation through Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions, from which this recipe is from. The proportions in this salsa are flexible, just use enough to fill the jar. Paste tomatoes are the meatiest choice, though most any variety will do. While the original recipe calls for peeling the tomatoes, we leave them on — it adds texture while saving a step. We use a mix of mild and hot peppers, and green onions in place of the cilantro. The whey comes from yogurt drained overnight or, in its place, you can increase the amount of salt. The jars don’t need to be sterile, though do make sure that they and the utensils you use are clean. Use only enough extra water to ensure that the vegetables are submerged in liquid. Once it’s ready to serve, the salsa may be made spicier by adding more hot pepper, or drained for a chunkier version.
4 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced (about 3 cups)
2 small onions, finely chopped
3/4 cup chopped peppers, mild or hot
2 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (or green onions, parsley)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (optional)
Juice of 2 lemons or limes (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/4 cup whey (or additional 1 tablespoon salt)
1/4 cup filtered water
– Mix all ingredients in bowl, pressing down lightly with a wooden pounder until the juices release. Transfer to a 1 quart mason or canning jar; the top of the vegetables should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. If necessary, top off with filtered water to make sure vegetables are covered with liquid.
– Cover snugly with a 2-piece top and keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days before transferring to cold storage. Makes 1 quart.
Adapted from “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon.
Note: Learn more about fermentation at our upcoming workshop, Fermenting Sauerkraut, on Tuesday, October 22nd, from 5:30 to 8:30 pm. Hosted by Kittery Adult Education: www.kittery.maineadulted.org.
Ooh yeah, definitely doing this.
Hope you like it!
Thanks for this recipe! I’ve got a sauerkraut recipe that I’ve been too nervous to try, but we”re looking for ways to incorporate more fermented foods into our diet. I think this is less intimidating because it is already a familiar food. Once it is in the fridge, does it keep indefinitely?
You’re very welcome! Fermenting vegetables for the first time can be daunting — just make sure everything is clean and well-washed, that the vegetables remain submerged under liquid, and that if it smells bad it probably is. I like using whey from drained yogurt since I always have homemade yogurt in the fridge and it gives the good bacteria a boost. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll feel more comfortable using just salt. It’s best eaten within the year, though we’re known to keep LF salsa in the fridge for 2+ years, and prefer it after it ages a bit and gets a little fizzy. Hope this helps!
It definitely helps! I’ll be making this in the next couple of nights with the last of our tomatoes, and peppers from my sister-in-law’s greenhouse!
Last bit of advice, the one that my fermentation teacher gave me — when you go to taste the salsa, make sure the spoon is clean and don’t double dip, this prevents introducing wayward bacteria that can affect storage ;) Have fun!
Oh right! That makes sense! Thanks!
I produce quite a lot of whey in my kitchen, so I am interested in recipes that allow me to make use of it (after I make ricotta). I will certainly try making this salsa.
Whey leftover from cheesemaking can be used for lacto-fermenting vegetables, depending on the culture used. The whey can be frozen and used in baking, and makes for a great stock or soup base — I still remember a delicious potato leek soup that was make with whey!
I made this salsa yesterday (thanks so much for posting it!) and I added 2 Tbsp of salt. A few hours later, as I was finishing a container of yogurt, I decided to add the whey to my salsa (about 2 Tbsp.). After I added it, I realized that the date on the yogurt was September 15th. This morning the salsa is a bit cloudy, whereas yesterday it looked so bright and delicious! Do you think I have ruined it? Thanks for your help, Colleen
Hi Colleen, thanks for your great question! Usually you want to avoid introducing oxygen once the salsa is jarred up and sealed, though tt sounds like you added the whey early enough that the salsa should be fine. The salt ensures an inhospitable environment for bad bacteria (food spoilers) until the good bacteria (lactobacillus) can take over. Some milk solids may have been introduced to the salsa when you added the whey, next time make sure to the whey is clear. Give it at least 2 days, maybe an extra day, avoid opening the jar until the ferment is done, and then reassess. If there’s any mold or off odors, discard and start over. You can think of it like pancakes, the first one is always the test one!
The pantry you guys must have. Please post a picture! I want to see and admire and harmlessly covet.
Will show you mine if you show me yours ;)
hi! I made this a week ago without whey and it was just insanely, inedibly salty. Do I really have to use twice as much salt to make it without whey? thanks
Hi Kate, I’m sorry your salsa didn’t turn out as expected! The salt is there to keep the bad bacteria at bay until the good ones take over. Measuring salt by volume vs. weight is always tricky since a tablespoon of fine table salt is going to be more than the same measure of larger crystals. That being said, fermentation can vary and you may have to adjust the amount of salt if you’re using finer grained salt. Hope this helps!